Farm-to-fork advocate Keri Aivazis knows that there are many obstacles standing in the way of full-scale adoption of urban farming methods. From zoning issues to finding the perfect property on which to build an urban farm, individuals who are interested in this form of agriculture must solve numerous problems before planting their first crops. But, as a recent article published by The Huffington Post explains, urban agriculture can actually revitalize metro economies that are in dire need of growth. Add this fact to the healthier diets that individuals can maintain when given the opportunity to eat local, nutritious, fresh produce and the urban farming movement, which is growing in leaps and bounds, is one that can benefit cities in a multitude of ways.
The article explains: “The local food movement has its roots in a desire to eat honest, non-toxic, nutritious food. The emerging framework of urban agriculture, however, is having as significant an effect on our economy as it is on our health [...] about 20 percent of U.S. farmland is located near metropolitan areas, yet metropolitan areas are home to over 80 percent of our population. Over three-quarters of the U.S. population is sharing only 3 percent of the U.S. land area. The same demographics are present in most Western countries, and most of the rest of the world is on a similar trajectory.”
The article goes on to assert that, by changing the way in which food production is distributed across urban and rural environments, new economic opportunities can be brought to cities—opportunities that allow individuals living in metropolitan areas to access healthier, fresher foods that will, ultimately, act as a catalyst for a positive change in their lifestyle.
The article provides a list of four of the different ways in which urban agriculture is able to positively impact local economic landscapes. These include keeping money within communities, creating jobs, making revenue streams from previously wasted resources, and encouraging the development of local, marketable trades.
Keri Aivazis agrees that these are very important ways in which the urban agriculture movement can improve local economies. In terms of keeping money within a community, it has been shown time and again that a larger portion of the cash spent in local companies actually goes to benefit the area than the cash that is spent on goods and services provided by organizations that are national, international, or regional in nature. The article calls this “the local multiplier effect: Money spent at locally-owned businesses stimulates more local economic transactions, which in turn keeps wealth flowing within communities (instead of flowing out).”
Creating local jobs is one of the most immediate effects that urban farming has on a community, as organizations that engage in urban agriculture need to hire individuals to set up the farms, manage them, sell goods, and conduct business with customers. The amount of jobs that a farm will generate depends upon the scope of the organization, but each new farm opens up several positions within the community. Aivazis asserts that, with unemployment levels still much too high, the creation of jobs is one of the best ways to stimulate the economy and help the cities throughout the country to continue to heal and rebuild after the financial crisis that the nation faced in 2008—which creating lasting economic damage that is still felt today.
In terms of developing new revenue streams, the article explains: “Urban farms create new economic value from previous waste streams. It takes energy to grow food. In industrial farming, that energy comes from expensive fossil fuel-based fertilizers and large machinery. On a smaller urban farm, one has to think more creatively. It turns out that the large amount of food waste that results from a high concentration of people living in urban areas can serve as valuable fodder for food production.”
The article further expands upon this work by providing the example of Growing Power. This organization collects food waste from a variety of sources (such as houses, coffee shops, etc.) and composts it. The compost is then used to grow local, organic food products.
The last point made by the article, Aivazis concedes, is directly related to the creation of new jobs. Basically, running an urban farm requires individuals to call upon skilled trades. Professionals who can provide carpentry, electric engineering, construction, irrigation, and other targeted services are important in the establishment and maintenance of successful urban farms. These skilled trades are integral in the development of the urban agriculture movement—and they can experience an increase in the demand for their services with the growth of this new strain of farming.
Keri Aivazis believes that the support that urban agriculture can provide to local economies is integral in helping create a strong community while boosting the health of individuals living within it. In her work with Urban Radish, which she co-owns, Aivazis has created a retailer that allows her to source locally grown foods from within Los Angeles and provide these goods to members of the community. By doing so, she has created a hub for individuals who are interested in supporting local businesses while improving their health via the consumption of fresh and nutritious food items.
“I support urban agriculture because it benefits the community in so many ways, from the health of its members to the economy as a whole,” asserts Aivazis. “As The Huffington Post has so succinctly explained, the economic benefits of urban agriculture are many and span the creation of jobs to the ability to circulate local wealth without it moving outside of the area.”
Keri Aivazis encourages individuals who are interested in learning more about the urban farming movement to contact a local organization involved in this activity.
Keri Aivazis, co-owner of Urban Radish is the Arts District of Los Angeles, California, is a veteran of the food services industry and a strong supporter of the farm-to-fork movement. Through her work, Aivazis contributes to the availability of fresh, healthy, delicious, and locally-sourced foods throughout the Los Angeles community. When not working at Urban Radish or speaking out about the benefits of the farm-to-fork movement, Aivazis is often found cooking gourmet dishes inspired by her husband’s Mediterranean roots.